nasturtium

Nasturtium

Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, is a lovely flowering plant with medicinal and culinary uses.

FAMILY

Tropaeolaceae

OTHER NAMES

Garden nasturtium, Indian cress, monks cress

PARTS USED

Leaves and flowers

HABITAT

Nasturtium is native to northwest South America

BOTANIC CHARACTERISTICS

Nasturtium is a climbing or trailing half-hardy annual vine.

Height: 15 to 30 cm (6-12 inches)
Width: 1.5-3 m (5-10 ft)
Flowers: Yellow, orange or red with 5 broad petals, eight stamens and a long nectar spur at the back
Leaves: Smooth and nearly circular, with pale green veins that radiate outward from the center. Upper side darker than the underside. The fleshy leafstalk curls easily around anything it touches.
Fruits: round seedpods filled with many seeds
Blooms: Throughout the summer in cold climate and all year in hot climate.

CULTIVATION

Hardiness: Zone 10-11
Propagation: From seed
Germination: 7-10 days. Needs darkness to germinate and about 18 Celsius (65 F). Start seeds indoors in late winter or early spring or sow directly outdoors 2 cm (a bit less than 1 inch) deep after the last expected frost date. They germinate quickly and flower 6 weeks later. Nasturtiums don’t transplant well, so sow them in pots or directly in situ.
Space: 30 cm (12 in)
Soil: Well in well-drained and slightly sandy. They can grow in poor soils. A too moist, rich or over-fertilized soil, however, stimulates prolific leaf growth at the expense of flowers.
pH: 7.5-8.5
Exposure: Full sun in cold climate and partial shade in hot climate
Pests: Aphids
Garden design: Nasturtiums look great hanging from a pot, climbing up a wall or fence, as a ground cover. The showy flowers can bright up and beautify less than perfect corners of the garden.
Companion planting: Nasturtium is a great companion plant in the vegetable garden. It attracts beneficial predatory insects while repelling caterpillars, squash bugs and cucumber beetles. It is also used as a trap crop against aphids and the cabbage white butterfly.

HARVEST

You can use all the aerial parts from May to October. For medicinal purposes, harvest nasturtium between mid-summer and mid-fall.

DRYING

Nasturtium loses its potency and taste when dried. Preserve it as tincture or in vinegar or butter immediately after harvesting.

CONSTITUENTS

Glucosinolate (Benzyl mustard oil), glucoside (gluctropeolin), vitamins C and B, flavonoids, cararenoids, sulfur, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus

PROPERTIES

Stimulant, antiseptic, diuretic, antiscorbutic, anti-microbial, antihelmintic,

ENERGETICS

Warm, dry

TASTE

Spicy-peppery

SCENT

Pungent

MEDICINAL USE OF NASTURTIUM

Nasturtium strengthens the immune system and is often used for infections of the respiratory and urinary systems.
The glucosinolate inhibits the growth of parasitic viruses, bacteria and fungi. Ten grams of nasturtium herb confers urine with bacteriostatic properties!
Herbalists also use nasturtium for skin ailments, baldness and scurvy.

Used internally for:

  • Urinary tract and respiratory infections
  • Sore throat
  • Sinus infections
  • Colds and flu
  • Intestinal fungal infections
  • Intestinal worms (seeds)
  • Scurvy

Topic application for:

  • Acne and other skin eruptions
  • Minor wounds
  • Baldness and weak hair
HOMEMADE PREPARATIONS
  • Infusion
  • Flower essence
  • Hair tonic
  • Vinegar
  • Facial steam bath (acne and other inflammation of the skin)
  • Salve
  • Ointment
  • Poultice
CULINARY USE

Nasturtiums lend a sharp, peppery taste to any salad. Use the stems as you would chives. Chop the leaves small and add them to bland tasting dishes. Use flowers and buds as edible dish decoration. Add it to vinegar and butter for a wonderful peppery taste.

SIDE EFFECTS

An overdose of nasturtium may cause stomach, intestinal and urinary tract irritation. Therefore, take it after a meal and not longer than 6 weeks. Avoid alcohol during the therapy as the benzyl mustard oil reduces the body’s alcohol tolerance.

CONTRA-INDICATIONS

Don’t use if you have kidney problems, stomach or intestinal ulcers and in children under age 4.

nasturtium

References
Bühring, U. 2015. Alles über Heilpflanzen. 3rd ed. Stuttgart: Ulmer.

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